State Plan for the Coordinated Delivery of Civil Legal Services Implementation
By Lindy Laurence, Access to Justice Board Member
Just over 18 months ago, the Access to Justice Board (ATJ Board) extended an invitation to the Alliance for Equal Justice (Alliance) and supporters to join us in developing a new State Plan for the Coordinated Delivery of Civil Legal Aid to Low Income People (State Plan). The State Plan is intended to guide the collective efforts of the Alliance for the next three years to expand access to the justice system and identify and eliminate barriers that perpetuate poverty and deny justice. Twenty-three legal aid organizations from across the state agreed to work intensively on the project by joining the Consensus Group. Collectively they contributed nearly 1,000 hours to create a draft plan that, after input from many constituencies, was adopted by the ATJ Board on May 12, 2017. The plan responds to many of the key findings of the 2015 Civil Legal Needs Study:
- Seven in ten households face at least one significant legal problem each year for which most will not get the help they need.
- Many low-income Washingtonians do not understand that the challenges they face have legal remedies.
- The nature of legal problems that people face is changing and that they intersect and compound.
- The Alliance and the legal system are far from delivering on our vision of equitable justice for all
The State Plan sets forth five goals intended to reflect the universal commitment of the Alliance and other advocates for an equitable legal system:
- Promote and foster race equity
- Provide clients with legal education to understand when their problem is legal in nature
- Increase access for underserved and underrepresented communities
- Develop and increase holistic client-centered services
- Engage in systemic advocacy
Recognizing that in order to get different results we have to do things differently, the plan sets forth specific strategies and implementations steps, along with our shared visions for success, which are intended as useful guidance, examples of action steps and direction. It is our hope that everyone in the Alliance and justice system will read the plan and consider how they can participate, both as an individuals and as an organization. Our work thrives when everyone is involved: lawyers, judges, legal workers, volunteers, community leaders—all committed to the fair, effective, and inclusive administration of civil justice in Washington State. Everyone has a role to play in this important work! It is only through the commitment and participation of everyone in the justice community that we will collectively achieve these five goals over the next three years.
This summer, the Access to Justice Board will identify how it can support the Alliance over the next three years in implementing and tracking our collective efforts and achieve our shared goals. We are very interested to learn about the work that is currently being done that supports these goals, the plans each organization has for the first year of State Plan implementation, and how each organization intends to move forward with the work of the plan.
We will be in touch with organizations represented in the Consensus Group throughout the summer to share ideas about how best to move forward and offer support as requested, and provide tools and resources to help capture and share data and achievements, along with ideas and best practices from other Alliance organizations. If your organization was not part of the Consensus Group and wants to receive this information as well, please email us at email@example.com.
After all the work put into developing the plan, the real work of achieving equity and justice for all is just beginning. This plan is not about adding new work, it is about prioritizing and informing the way we do our work. The State Plan offers a framework for the Alliance to work together to achieve our common goals. We are grateful for the continued engagement of the Alliance. Our work is richer, stronger, and more fruitful because we are united in our efforts. We hope that by working together we can find ways to work more strategically with the resources we have and make even more of a difference for our communities.
Sincere thanks and gratitude to the following organizations who participated in the Consensus Group that drafted the State Plan:
Benton Franklin Legal Aid Society Blue Mountain Action Council Center for Justice Clark County Volunteer Lawyer Program Columbia Legal Services Cowlitz Wahkiakum Legal Aid Eastside Legal Assistance Program KCBA Pro Bono Services Kitsap Legal Services LAW Advocates Lewis County Bar Legal Aid
Benton Franklin Legal Aid Society
Blue Mountain Action Council
Center for Justice
Clark County Volunteer Lawyer Program
Columbia Legal Services
Cowlitz Wahkiakum Legal Aid
Eastside Legal Assistance Program
KCBA Pro Bono Services
Kitsap Legal Services
Lewis County Bar Legal Aid
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Northwest Justice Project Rita R. Dermody Legal Help Center at the Public Law Library of King County Seattle Community Law Center Skagit Volunteer Lawyer Program Snohomish County Legal Services Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association TeamChild University Legal Assistance YWCA – Sexual Violence Legal Services
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Northwest Justice Project
Rita R. Dermody Legal Help Center at the Public Law Library of King County
Seattle Community Law Center
Skagit Volunteer Lawyer Program
Snohomish County Legal Services
Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association
University Legal Assistance
YWCA – Sexual Violence Legal Services
From the Consensus Group Perspective
Alex Doolittle, executive director of the Seattle Community Law Center, was one of the many committed members of the Consensus Group who gave numerous hours helping to draft the plan. We asked her to share with us some of her thoughts about the overall drafting process and the importance of the State Plan.
Q. From your perspective as a leader in the Alliance, what are you most excited about/eager to see implemented in the plan so far?
A. Alex: I am very pleased to see that we started with a goal of instituting a race equity lens into our work, and that through conversations and two years of development we ended with a very strong commitment to race equity. It is great to see that it is not only a stated goal but that it comes up throughout the plan as well. I’m excited to see how far we can move the needle on this area of systems change within our own movement.
Q. What is the most important thing you think people should know about the Consensus Group and its process to get to this point?
A. Alex: It is important to know that the Consensus Group was very large and represented perspectives of all kinds of programs from all over the State. Sometimes strategic plans are built in a closed room by an executive body and then delivered to those who are charged with implementing it. This is not that kind of plan. It was fantastic to work together with so many programs and program staff to build this plan. There was lots of thoughtful debate and careful consideration. In the end, I think the amount of time we took ensured that voices of programs that might otherwise go unheard were amplified.
Q. In what ways do you think the plan is relevant for today’s climate?
A. Alex: One of the things that made this kind of a plan difficult to craft is that we were careful to building a plan that didn’t require new resources. It was brought up several times that we didn’t want unknown economic factors to make the plan irrelevant. The Consensus Group discussed the importance of setting priorities (e.g. holistic advocacy, a race equity lens, etc.) and adjusting existing resources to support those priorities. Whereas new funds could in theory make implementing the plan easier, building a plan that is built on our existing reality prevents us from getting stuck.
If you would like more information about the State Plan for the Coordinated Delivery of Civil Legal Aid for Low Income People, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.